Balearic tourism minister, Bel Busquets.

06-04-2018Humphrey Carter

The new minister for tourism, Bel Busquets, admitted last week that at the tail end of last year and the beginning of this one, the Balearic tourism industry was slightly nervous and concerned about the revival of traditional competing destinations such as Greece, Turkey, Egypt and even Tunisia. However, the latest British market reports and industry messages indicate that the Balearics has little to fear and this season will be as good, if not better, than last year.

Last year, for example, the British market was 7.5 per cent up on the previous year, with 4,420,000 holidaymakers coming to the islands and spending 6.2 per cent more, and the minister is quietly confident that the figure will increase this year.

Already, the British market has performed extremely strongly. During January and February, the number of British visitors was 25 per cent higher than during the same period last year with 70,000 coming to the Balearics and the vast majority of those to Majorca. In fact, due to the demise of Monarch, Minorca was well down, so Majorca pulled off a major turnaround in the UK winter market, which the minster is extremely pleased about.

" 'Better in winter' is our primary message, and we are going to continue promoting this at fairs and congresses around the world.

"It is not a case of wanting fewer tourists. The anti-tourist protest last year was a one-off and by no means do we support the movement. Tourism is the foundation stone of the local economy, but what we would like to see - and it is happening - is a longer season with more tourists spread out during the year.

"Yes, saturation is an issue. Obviously, northern Europeans want some sun and beach time after the long cold winters and we fully understand and respect that, but at the same time, there is so much more to the Balearics which can be enjoyed in the spring and the autumn. We are in talks with the hoteliers and at the end of this month we will be meeting the airlines in Bilbao to discuss maintaining existing routes and the possibility of adding extra services or at least starting them earlier.

"From our conversations with local hoteliers they will open earlier if there are the flights, so we are gradually cracking the chicken-and-egg situation. If we can secure flights from March to November, then we can prolong the season and ease the pressure on the region’s infrastructure and environment. The other issue is the cruise ships. Yes, we had the largest in the world with some 7,000 passengers in port yesterday, but it was the only liner in Palma and it was a Sunday, so the city businesses will have welcomed the tourists who came ashore, and that is normally about 90 per cent.

"But the problem is when we have six cruise ships in port at the same time. That could mean the best part of around 24,000 passengers coming into the city and that does exert a lot of pressure on the capital’s infrastructure, businesses and municipal services, such as street cleaning. Restaurants and bars are not prepared for such a surge of clients, so perhaps services and quality slip in a bid to cater for so many people and we don’t want quality standards suffering.

"But we do not control the ports, the ports authority and the state do, so we can lobby them but we have no direct control over port movements. However, what we pride ourselves on is quality and that does come at a price, not just here but everywhere and that raises the topic of the tourist tax.

"To begin with, we are not the only region in Europe or the world which charges tourist or accommodation taxes, and many charge a lot more. I was recently on business in Brussels and I was charged four euros per night, while the other day I was in Ibiza for a meeting and had to pay 83 cents. We are aware that there is a certain amount of animosity to the tourist tax, but this year all the hotels will have leaflets explaining what the tax is for and how it is being spent.

"The way we look at it is that people coming to the Balearics are helping by making a small contribution towards the upkeep and improvements of this little piece of paradise to which, in the case of the British in particular, have been coming for generations. We want them to keep coming but at the same time we want to continue looking after the environment, culture, heritage, natural resources and atmosphere; and that does cost money.

"When it comes to hotel prices, one has to bear in mind that we live in a free market, so we can’t dictate to the hoteliers what they charge and nor can we ban all-inclusive resorts. That said, the number of all-inclusive hotels is gradually dropping because an increasing number of visitors are building their own packages and are tending to prefer exploring the island more. But all-inclusive hotels serve an important role. They are perfect, for example, for families. They have their budget, know what they’ve paid and don’t have to worry about money while on holiday. Again, though, we want all-inclusive resorts to provide quality."

"A nine-month season is long enough. Hotels need two to three months a year to carry out repairs, renovations and improvements while the staff also need a break. The private and public sectors are working well in improving the standards and quality and this is having a positive effect.

"A prime example is Magalluf. Yes, there are still problems with prostitutes and muggings. This again is an issue for the state. We and Calvia town hall are doing all we can within our powers to combat the problem and over the past few years there has certainly been a drop in the number of incidents.

"Primarily, this is because of the money which has been invested in the resort. The renovations and upgrading of hotels have created a more positive environment which deters people from causing trouble. At the end of the day, the problem in Magalluf is just one street and this year the town hall is going to be taking a very tough stance on any anti-social behaviour.

"It’s not just Magalluf. Palma town hall is having to deal with Playa de Palma and what we have said to the central government is that we need more police on the beat. It is quite amazing the effect a member of the National Police or Guardia Civil on the beat has on holidaymakers, so we need a greater police presence. But thanks to private and public investment and initiatives, Magalluf is much calmer than it was and is becoming a family resort again, and that is our goal.

"You don’t have to get drunk to have a good time, well not in the Balearics anyway, and that is another message we are transmitting with the help of the British government via social media and direct information channels. The British government has launched a campaign alerting people to the laws, rules and regulations in holiday resorts and saying that they should respect them along with the environment and the local community around them.

"It is all about finding the right balance and sometimes, such as the case with holiday rentals, it can be difficult. On the one hand we welcome them. For the interior of the islands, holiday rentals generate a very important part of local income. Generally, holidaymakers renting properties also hire cars and travel about the island. They shop at the local supermarkets and stores and they eat out, all the while creating jobs because these properties need to be maintained.

"But the downside, especially in Palma for example, is access to housing for seasonal workers and the community in general, hence why we came up with zoning. While we want to make sure that those villages and towns which depend on holiday lets continue to do so, we also want to ensure that people looking for long-term accommodation do not get frozen out of the market or are charged high rents.

"Obviously, we want legal lets to provide quality, which is why we are regulating them and also making sure that property owners pay their corresponding rates and taxes and inform the state authorities about who is staying - just like hotels do. It’s all part of maintaining high security levels so that visitors can feel relaxed and safe while on holiday.

"But it’s the winter we are targeting. We are promoting all the sporting opportunities, in particular cycling, with an ever-increasing amount of hotels and restaurants offering all the services cyclists need. There are also the mountains, hiking, culture, wine tours, nature, spas and wellness breaks and gastronomy.

"In Palma, the latter could, however, be a little bit more Majorcan. We have all the franchises which can be found all over the world and perhaps we have lost a little of that Majorcan feel in Palma. We would like to see more restaurants serving traditional food and using local products. Get outside of Palma and there are plenty of excellent local restaurants, but in the city there are very few. That is a shame because keeping the local agricultural industry afloat is all part of our sustainable tourism plan. We can’t have an industry which is based on three months of the year. It damages the island, people’s way of life and does little for the employment market.

"Like I said, we want people to continue coming to this little piece of paradise and we very much appreciate their contribution in helping to protect it."

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RBMM / Hace 5 months

To Steve: The discussion is NOT about long term rentals and LAU. You can read more about LAU here: https://www.spanishpropertyinsight.com/2016/05/13/urban-rental-law-spain-tenancy-agreements-ley-de-arrendamientos-urbanos-lau/ The discussion is about holiday rentals and I recommend that you read the summary by Spanish Property Insight that I mentioned earlier. You also write that there is no minimum duration in a LAU contract, but if it is a short term rental that law is just not relevant.

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Steve, Palma Nova / Hace 5 months

David Ansell. Hardly rubbish, the answer to your question is entirely logical and predictable in fact. Many people have stopped advertising and/or privately letting because of their concerns about being denounced or inspected and recieving a "sanction", or warning of possible fine. This would mean appealing through a lawyer and the associated costs. AirBnb and Homeaway can afford do do exactly that and have done. They've done it before and had the fines anulled as the local tourism law breaches the law of e-commerce, and they're now doing it again. Letting privately with a LAU contract has never been illegal, and there is no minimum duration for the contract contained in it. For your information private rentals in apartments only became sanctionable after August last year, thus my previous comments are fact. Could I add that before you accuse somebody knowledgable in the field of writing rubbish, you do a little research first.

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David Anchell / Hace 5 months

Steve. You do talk some rubbish. Why did the advertising of your so called 'legal' apartment lets nosedive IMMEDIATELY when it was realised the game was up.

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RBMM / Hace 5 months

When laws are unclear or when different parties interpret them differently they have to be tried in court. I haven't read about a single case where people who were fined appealed in court.

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John Little / Hace 5 months

Thanks for the heads up Steve. just read it. Another example of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing methinks.

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Steve, Palma Nova / Hace 5 months

https://ultimahora.es/noticias/local/2018/04/12/992769/incognitas-resolver-del-alquiler-turistico.html

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RBMM / Hace 5 months

To Steve. I don’t understand what you write: Firstly, there were never any "illegal holiday rentals", as it's not against the law.” How do you explain why MDB (May 11, 2017) has had articles such as ”Over 300 proceedings against illegal holiday rentals since 2012”? There are numerous such articles. Spanish Property Insight has a very good summary of the present law (https://www.spanishpropertyinsight.com/2017/09/08/new-balearic-islands-holiday-rental-law/). "Renting apartments without a license was banned in the region in 2012 under a previous administration but enforcement was largely nonexistent, according to the Balearic government” (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-spain-tourism/spains-balearic-islands-to-fine-illegal-tourist-rentals-idUSKBN1AO1VB).

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Steve, Palma Nova / Hace 5 months

Continued. It's important to separate the legality of letting your property from the obligation to pay tax on your income. Naturally you should make your declaration and comply with this law whatever your line of business. Tax evasion matters are dealt with by Hacienda, not the Ministry of Tourism. In addition the main hotel chains receive millions in "subvenciones" for their reforms every winter, and it's been seen that they cream much of their profits out of Spain for the tax advantage (at the same time as offering free holidays in their Caribbean chains to local politicians in exchange for their favours). So much for the argument about the huge losses of tax revenue due to a few holiday rentals...

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Steve, Palma Nova / Hace 5 months

RBMM. Firstly, there were never any "illegal holiday rentals", as it's not against the law. You may not operate airport travel or a daily cleaning service as hotels do under their tourist licences, but I don't think anyone ever did those things. Today, as ever, you can let any property by weeks providing you do not advertise it on the various holiday websites. This is because the hoteliers want to reduce the numbers, and they run the island using the government, politicians and councils as puppets. However the LAU permits what I have stated, even though the "Conselleria de Tourismo" are sending out contradictive messages. Just like the fines to AirBnb and Homeaway, we will see that they are all quashed as being discriminatory, undemocratic, and clearly in contra to the LAU. Please let's hear no more about "illegal" holiday rentals, as they don't exist.

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RBMM / Hace 5 months

The sun tax will be removed and was decided "in Madrid". It was nevertheless a crazy decision to introduce it. People in Spain my not trust politicians next time they try to promote renewable energy.

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